Construction Risks Might Be Louder Than Ever, But There Are Ways To Mitigate Them
It’s not been an easy couple of years for any sector, not least construction. The early pandemic put a halt to construction for several weeks, if not months, followed by labour and materials shortages once work did commence — all amid an uncertain financial background.
In response, building products manufacturer Etex, which owns plasterboard brand Siniat and fire protection brand Promat, has created an approach to risk mitigation for the construction sector. The company spoke to 250 construction industry decision-makers for their views on risk and put the results to a select panel of contractors, architects and developers. These experts came up with three core focuses for the sector looking to handle risk: training, collaboration and collective responsibility.
“Risk is a huge challenge for the entire construction sector right now, with a perfect storm of different elements contributing to this,” Etex market manager Melanie Davies said. “There are, however, ways that the industry can get around some of these challenges, and it’s promising to see a number of industry experts citing collaboration, training and skills development as key ways to reduce risk. It’s now about how the industry goes about improving in these areas, which really does need to be a collective effort from all areas of the supply chain.”
Respondents cited three top contributors to risk in the construction industry: a lack of quality control, unclear government guidelines and a shortage of high-quality materials. Almost three-quarters (73%) said they were concerned with liability issues when specifying building materials — specifically user wellbeing, product durability and worker safety.
Against such a wide backdrop of risks, Etex’s panel felt that the sector needs to focus on training and skills development. This is the No. 1 way to mitigate risk and increase quality at build stage. For example, the same product could be installed differently by two different people. Manufacturers therefore have a responsibility to make sure those who fit their products know what they’re doing.
“Training is essential to ensure quality across the board, particularly with products such as those related to fire safety,” Davies said. “We put a lot of effort into educating our customers, from creating our training centre in Bristol to giving ‘toolbox talks’ on-site before installation and creating how-to guides.”
When respondents were asked about the burden of risk, each profession within construction viewed their responsibility differently. Seventy-two percent of project managers thought that risk management falls mainly into their remit, while 66% of contractors believe it falls into their court.
This highlights the importance of collaboration, Davies said. If all professions involved in construction work together from the start of a project — architects, contractors, suppliers, project managers — everyone can work to mitigate risks and avoid costly issues down the line.
“From our point of view, we make sure we can provide technical design support right from the beginning to make sure that risks do not snowball later on,” Davies said. “We have all the expertise in-house across drywall, fire protection, fire stopping and steel framing. When we’re brought in early on a project to collaborate, we can simplify procurement and provide data on all products, which mitigates risk considerably.”
Sixty-one percent of respondents said that it was up to the government to provide clear guidelines for construction sector stakeholders to be able to reduce risks. The government has introduced legislation in recent years to mitigate risks, such as the laws relating to fire safety, but the report presented an overwhelming sentiment that policymakers should do more.
Report panellists, however, also highlighted how everyone in the supply chain has a role to play. It’s not just one person’s job to mitigate risk; there’s a collective responsibility to protect workers and create a property that meets standards.
“We have a focus on providing fully tested systems across a range of products and brands, as we take our element of responsibility extremely seriously,” Davies said. “All our products are tested in real-world environments at our own testing centre in France, and certification is reviewed and updated continuously.”
Health and safety have always been major challenges for the construction industry, Davies added, and this year building regulations have been tightened further. The quality of products — and how they are used — is increasingly under the spotlight. It has never been more important, Davies said, to work together.
Etex is a leading manufacturer of innovative construction materials, specialising in drywall, passive fire protection and steel framing systems. With four leading brands under its UK Building Performance division (Siniat, Promat, EOS and FSi), Etex provides extensive technical knowledge and support to its customers, alongside a comprehensive product offering.
This article was produced in collaboration between Etex and Studio B. Bisnow news staff was not involved in the production of this content.
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